An Update On My Recovery Progress And Some Lessons Learned

copyright banner salted photo header


My doctor thinks I have diabetes, so a few weeks ago he asked me to keep track of my blood sugar. Several dozen little holes in my fingertips later and I’m pretty sure he’s right because normal is in the 5 mmol/L range, and I haven’t been below 16.4 since I started. I’ve actually gone off the scale twice… at 33.3 mmol/L the guidebook tells you to “obtain and follow instructions from your healthcare professional without delay.”

I’m seeing my “healthcare professional” on the 23rd. Right now my desk is littered with little bloodied test strips… I couldn’t get the stabbing machine to work properly, it won’t go deep enough so I’ve just been stabbing myself with the lancet.

My finger tips look like I poked them repeatedly with a pen, there are little black dots everywhere.

For a lot of reasons I feel like I’m starting a new phase of my recovery. About this time last year I actually did start a new phase, so I figured it made sense to take a look at some of the things I’ve learned and learned to do…

Like pay my bills. Phone, electricity, cable, gas are all at zero. Until a few months ago I was always riding the Final Notice, always paying off the bare minimum or handing off post-dated cheques. But since just after Christmas I’ve been slowly paying them down until they’re all gone.

The main reason why they’re paid off is because I finally asked my bank teller to set up my account so I could pay my bills at the ATM. This was something I had been wanting to ask her about for the past two years, but never got around to it.

My teeth situation has finally levelled off… after filling a small hole in one tooth no new cavities were found during my last appointment. I think it might have something to do with me learning how to floss properly.

All of these lesson I was supposed to have learned as a child… I can remember my mother bringing me to a bank so I could set up a savings account. But then I never went back. A letter from the bank was forwarded to me four years ago, just a few months after I moved back home. It was a reminder that the account was still active… I think it was just over $20.

I’m eating healthy again. Last spring and summer I was eating a fairly strict diet of 1% milk, fruit, whole wheat bagels and fish. In the fall I got into a funk and pretty much stayed there until March, so my diet reverted back to take-out and convenience store crap. Since April I’ve been walking to and from the grocery store almost everyday, it’s roughly a two mile round trip and I bring one canvass bag so I can only get so much.

Right now my diet consists of unprocessed fish, chicken, bacon, eggs, honey, whole wheat bread, apples, bananas and large salads (fresh tomatoes, radishes, mushrooms) with some tuna or salmon. The biggest change in my diet is I’ve totally cut out all pop. I’ve been drinking Club Soda with some orange juice for flavour. Dee-freaking-licious.

Which makes this diabetes thing so fucking frustrating. It has only been the past two, maybe three years since my brain has been clear enough to acknowledge the need for a cleaner diet. All of those untreated years it was like my brain was just locked and unable to think around problems… like diet and banking and paying bills and flossing and not being a fucking idiot.

When I did my first test I thought the machine must’ve been fucked. It was 19.8, then a few hours later it was 24.8 and at bedtime it was 30.5 which is right around the number the booklet suggests I should call my “healthcare provider”. That’s pretty much been the result everyday for the past month.

I have to say this past year turned out pretty… stupid. My recovery has progressed, I am a thousand times better than I was last year at this time. Each year I’ve been in recovery, talking to a psychiatrist and taking the medications, I’ve improved. Without a doubt.

But I’m still as isolated as I was before I started my recovery. I started dating again, but she was the one who initiated contact and it was her who decided it was over four months later. I wasn’t moving fast enough.

My apartment’s a mess, just like it was last year and the year before that and the year before that… but I have new furniture. I bought a new bookcase a couple of months ago, I finally got around to constructing it a few days ago and now I realize I don’t have enough crap for the shelves. And I finally fixed my couch so there’s no steel hump in the middle.

My photography has improved a lot over the past year. I’ve taken a few thousand photos with my pocket digital, and I finally got around to printing a bunch of them off so now I have a wall full of photos. I started a photo blog in… September, but I haven’t updated it since March.

My sleeping patterns over the past year have gotten much better. The Seroquel has been giving me fantastic sleep since I first started taking it four years ago. But since this past summer I’ve stopped staying up around the clock, so instead of having at least one 24-hour day per week I might have had three in the past six months.

Which, again, is frustrating… I’ve lived my entire adult life until now making one day out of three.

There was a study done not too long ago where researchers looked at the effects of sleep deprivation. They took healthy students, basically in their twenties, and over six days they were only allowed four hours of sleep per night. Their sleep was also interrupted whenever they started to fall into the deep, healing sleep phase.

After only four days of this they were exhibiting the signs of diabetes. Their bodies couldn’t metabolize sugar… after four days a dude of 25 had the metabolism of someone in their fifties. The researchers concluded that unless we get a full sleep cycle of eight hours we’re putting ourselves at a much higher risk for obesity, stroke and heart disease.

Considering the toll clinical and manic depression takes on the body, heart and mind through sleep deprivation it seems everything I’ve done over the past nineteen years has the consequence of taking additional years off my life.

It’s not just the disease I have to clean up after. I knew about the clinical depressions waiting for me once the manic depression was out of the way. I knew there were some physical prices to pay… I have an extra forty pounds sitting between me and this keyboard.

But I thought I could clear those physical problems up by eating better, not drinking and quitting smoking.

So this is what I know after another year in recovery… fighting the disease comes first. But then there’s the neglected clinical depressions and the neglected body. The clinical depressions can be talked into submission with a decent psychiatrist, but the neglected body needs more than better food and not drinking and/or smoking. It needs blood tests and visits to a General Practitioner every three months, and visits to a dentist.

We need sleep and we need to walk outside and to find some structure… but we need to have our thyroid checked, our urine tested and our lithium levels, and our cholesterol and our blood sugar.

I don’t know if this is a Gen X thing, or a growing up without a father thing, or a manic depressive thing, or a combination of all three and more… but the sheer ignorance with which I’ve lived my life is almost overwhelming.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, crazy people with no pants, Diabetes, Health, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to An Update On My Recovery Progress And Some Lessons Learned

  1. thordora says:

    It’s not just you-if I didnt have my husband, I’d be homeless. I have to set automatic payments, which I only set after he yelled at me about it a million times. He pays the bills. I have to try and make healthy for a family, which I’m slowly getting better at (summer+wok=BLISS). I too only recently started flossing, once someone pointed out floss picks (duh)

    the diabetes is a kick in the ass though. I know my body is beyond fucked up, but so far they haven’t tested for that, thankfully. Being tested for celiac, and crossing my fingers…..I do like eating after all.

    We’ve spent lives trying to exist, just exist. I was getting a manicure yesterday, and the girl was telling me how to do it myself and I thought to myself “I could do this. My mother always did” which was followed by “Who are you kidding? You can’t even figure out your hair!”

    We don’t have that lexicon-we just don’t. I had to read in a cookbook how to properly cook eggs and beans. I can recite poetry, but can’t recall what’s good for me and what isn’t.

    You sound like you’re doing great though. At least its starting to get pretty in that end of the country…

    I ramble. Mixed state sunday, my bad.

  2. Nita says:

    Gabriel, you are clear about things now, and thats important. Look ahead my friend.

  3. bine says:

    ugh. the scale of measurement you use for your blood sugar seems to be different than in germany, but your values seem to be high indeed … i hope you find a solution for that soon, or your kidneys will not like it. taking insulin is not much more of a hassle than taking lithium – you just do it because you have to do it, otherwise you will not get to grow much older.
    my mother had diabetes and i’m scared shitless to develop it too – i know it runs in families.
    i’m sorry you have to deal with this now. i so much wished for you to get some “normalcy time”. hope things look friendly otherwise, and spring does some good.

  4. zoom says:

    Gabriel, I think we’re all on a continuum with respect to taking care of ourselves and our lives and our homes and our stuff. In any of our lives there will always be plenty of room for improvement. You’ve got your shit together enough to care about being healthy and to continually make improvements in all areas of your life – I’d call that success.

  5. I recently read something that said “the only teeth you need to floss regularly are the ones you want to keep.” That and your very visual examples have gotten me all aboard the dental hygiene train.

    Keep it up. The only day you can start anything is today.

  6. XUP says:

    I agree with Zoom – every single one of us gets overwhelmed by the basics of life every so often and when health issues get added to that, it’s often difficult to cope. But, the best thing is not to try to deal with the whole big picture at once – just do one day at a time. You have a lot of successful days behind you so chances are good that today will be successful too, but whatever happens, tomorrow is a new day.

  7. mark p.s. says:

    I also am poor at paying bills on time due to depression and tiredness. When opening a bill I say, “I’ll pay that tomorrow”. Then due to tired and depression I forget the bill the next day.
    To combate this you can have the auto payment done by computers, or what I do is stick the bills in my face by sticking them to my front door or mirror, so I can’t really forget. Once paid I shred the bills. If I don’t see anything on the door or mirror , then I know I’ve paid the bills.

    Some CBC stories on stopping diabetes with the diet/food you eat.

  8. bromac says:

    It sounds as if you’re a bit frustrated with the things that aren’t. But the things that are, that have become reality over the past year, damn dude……you rock. Tremendous, really tremendous.

    I tend to get overwhelmed when I get so much going on that life’s “to do” list. Then I end up in a fetal position in my kitchen. Then my husband comes along and reminds me that all I have to do is better than I did yesterday.

    Just do better than you did yesterday. You’re doing great, Gabriel!

  9. Gabriel... says:

    Sorry I haven’t replied sooner, for the past couple of days I’ve had a deep chest cough and stuffed head.

    Hi Thordora… years ago I tried automatic payments on my student loan, but I quit my job and a few months later I was on social assistance and couldn’t get the bank to stop taking the student loan payments out of my account. About a year after I moved back up here my parents offered to take over the bill payments because I was constantly late… but at that point in my recovery I was angry and frustrated all the time and took their offer as an insult. Looking back I think help would have been appreciated, but help learning how to pay bills not actually paying them.

    I think there’s more to this than the manic depression/mental illness. This whole Gen-X/Gen Y thing has as much to do with the deficiencies in our lives as the untreated illnesses. X and Y are a split generation. The first half, the X, were raised by the generation who bought into A.S Neill’s method of letting children raise themselves, and we were taught the philosophy of M.A.D. But ten years later those parents split up and gave birth to the second half, the Y Generation who were smothered with activities and Barney.

    Neither generation can cook, neither generation can balance a chequebook, neither can plan for their retirement and both were raised by the same parents. I was reading something about this not too long ago and the gist of the article was Gen-Xers identify more with their grandparents than our parents…

    Thanks Nita, I do feel like I’ve attained a certain clarity which I’ve been missing for a long, long time.

    I looked it up Bine, and according to Wiki “the [normal] blood glucose level is maintained between about 4 and 6 mmol/L”… mmol/L is short for millimoles/Litre, but there’s also mg/dl or milligrams/decilitre. mmol/L is taking over as the international standard, but mg/dL is still used and the normal range for a nondiabetic is 90-110. On the mg/dL scale I’d be bouncing between 360 and 600.

    Thanks Zoom! and XUP… I definitely consider my recovery to date to be a success, the fact that I can face this diabetes thing and the other, smaller obstacles head on is remarkable compared to where I was just a couple of years ago. Learning how to deal with the small things has taught me to deal with the larger ones… now I just have to get my dishes clean and put a sheet on my bed.

    Justin, if only one person was to learn something from looking at multimedia presentations of my teeth being extracted I’m glad it was you.

    Hey Mark, thanks for commenting buddy. I was doing just like what you were doing… constantly telling myself I’d pay a bill tomorrow until it’s thirty days late. I’m still doing it in some ways, only mostly now it’s about dishes and laundry. And I’ve done the bills on the door thing in the past, but it’s remarkable how easy it becomes to ignore the things right in front of my face. Thanks for the links… I saw that story about Dr. Jay Wortman, it’s a fantastic story. Natives in Canada are three times more likely to have diabetes, I’m surprised it took this long for someone to think of changing their diet back to their natural one.

    I was and am frustrated Bromac… thanks for the pep talk. As my recovery moves along I constantly have this urge for it to go just a bit faster, like I’m crossing a river one stone at a time but I’m always looking three stones ahead. Thanks Bromac…

  10. darkentries says:

    Impatience at recovery are a problem for me too. I spent so long just wishing for some kind of stability so I could try and sort my life out, and when I actually achieve that modicum of stability I start wanting more, faster, now.
    Its just human to be greedy, about everything, however simple.

    I have always been an avoider financially. I got myself into some serious holes. Partly because I have no willpower to regulate my work schedule, partly because I’ve been too ill to work regularly, but mainly because anything to do with money gives me palpitations so I ignore it.

    Luckily I have a partner who does all that stuff for me now. Perversely she is good at organising my life, whilst being appalling at her own.

    Still paying off debts, but at least I am paying them off…and thats a good feeling. I know how satisfying it can feel to not be so scared of the mail that it just piles up in a corner somewhere until the one day a year when you have the balls to open everything and see how quickly you need to move, and how far…

    No? Just me then….

    You’re doing fine Gabe, don’t stop believing in yourself… I’m sure you won’t anyway.

  11. thordora says:

    A lot for me has been growing up without that other parent who knew how to do stuff. My Dad didn’t know how to cook, drive or pay the bills when my mother died. He passed alot of that on when we constantly said “fuck it, let’s eat out”

    Some of it is that generational “screw it” too I’m sure. And maybe a little “life is just too freaking short” as well. 🙂

    Thanks for that address….. 😛

  12. Gabriel... says:

    Just on the cooking thing… my grandmother is a fantastic cook, she makes incredible soups and pies and pretty much everything else. She learned from her mother, plus she likes to experiment. My mother, because of the crap my grandmother put her through, made a conscious decision that my grandmother’s knowledge was mostly useless. It’s something most of the 60’s generation did, in fact the philosophy of the 60’s was pretty much “anything done by any other generation has no value”. Mom recently put all of her mother’s recipes into a book so now it’s archived in the National Library… which is something the 60’s generation has been doing since they hit 40 fifteen years ago, finally seeing some value in their parents.

    I have more phone numbers and addresses for Cindy if you’d like them.

  13. I totally hear you about the sleep-as-much-needed “medicine” especially. I don’t take lithium but Depakote and Seroquel are what keep me going and without the Seroquel I stop sleeping and start to lose my mind. I’ve just started blogging about all of this because I’m finding it difficult, more than ever before, to have no one to confide in. I think it’s amazing that you are able to look back on this past year and see what strides you’ve made and what other areas of life still need work. One thing about bipolar disorder is that it forces us to think of ourselves as works in progress more than most people … and, I think, this sort of thinking would benefit most of humanity. I’m glad I’ve stumbled upon your blog. LOVE the title 🙂

  14. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks bipolar girl, and thanks for commenting. You’ve started a great blog, I hope it works for you as well as Salted has for me.

    Sleep is a recurring theme here… when we’re untreated it seems to be the one thing we all wish for most. When I first started taking Seroquel as a sleep aid (100mgs) three or four years ago it, without a doubt, changed my life entirely.

    Thanks to the advances in imaging technology the research being done today is proving just how important proper sleeping patterns are… just look at the amount of sleep we miss when we’re untreated, then look at the study saying four days in a row of bad sleep can give people the symptoms of diabetes… I’ve written several times before that when we’re first diagnosed we need to have a doctor hand us a sleep aid. It’s second in importance only to a mood stabilizer.

    Hi Dark Entries… far be it for me to be a nag, but you have to watch this kind of thing: “Luckily I have a partner who does all that stuff for me now. Perversely she is good at organizing my life, whilst being appalling at her own.” When people with similar mental illness/clinical depression hangups get into a relationship there’s always the threat one will compensate for the other… so, in this case, she can ignore her problems by focusing on yours. Basically there’s a real opportunity for enabling to occur. I’m not suggesting you’re at that point, but knowing you and your totally anonymous Greek-American feta-loving lover like I do there’s definitely that possibility. It’s kind of like mom and dad doing your recovery homework for you while you play GTA IV. It’s definitely something to watch out for.

  15. darkentries says:

    “far be it for me to be a nag” – but you do it so well gabe…
    In fact, starting a sentence with such a phrase pretty much means ‘now I’m going to nag’.
    After I was so nice to you as well…

    I understand what you’re saying, and if it was a case of letting someone else do my shit so I can ignore it, maybe I would be concerned. I ignore a bunch of stuff anyway, and C ignores a bunch of other stuff. We help each other out cos we know the other is useless at that sort of thing.
    I don’t see that as enabling – I think it happens with all couples. It’s called teamwork.
    However, the mere act of witnessing someone paying bills and budgeting has slowly made a little more calm about such things. They stress me out a little less now.
    Likewise, my constant reminding C to eat, drink, take pills, sleep and not buy stupid shit for no reason helps her to remember that such things are important. We’re helping each other to learn useful routines that previously just didn’t happen.

    So I prefer to think of it as two heads being better than one. I am busy working on more immediate stuff, like trying to control anxiety, and paranoia and depression, and she is working on, well, just being not manic.
    We pick up the slack a little for each other, to make that process easier on each other.

    I simplify the situation when I say I have a partner who does all that stuff for me. It’s more of a teacher/student relationship when it comes to personal finances. I’m hoping at some point exposure to actually dealing with finance rather than avoiding it, will lead to me being able to handle it myself rather than panicking. I do occasionally pick up the phone and talk to the bank now, with some prompting.
    Similarly, some days, C manages to eat some lunch without me putting it in front of her.
    Proud moments for us crazy folk…

    On the flip side, and just as, if not more so, important. When I am being unreasonable, I am told in no uncertain terms that this is the case.
    Not much leeway is given for my craziness, no matter how much I stamp my feet and shake my fists.

    I would play GTAIV, but it’s not out on the PC yet, so I have to stick to Call of Duty IV. Violence somehow isn’t as much fun when you get medals for it.

  16. Gabriel... says:

    I’m sure you two complete each other, but I said… “I’m not suggesting you’re at that point…[but] It’s definitely something to watch out for.”

    I’ve got COD IV as well… I managed to get past the training stage, then got to shoot some sailors before I was blown up by a grenade I think I threw myself, but then I bought GTA IV and nothing else exists anymore. A few minutes ago I was driving a two-toned yellow and black Shelby Mustang I stole after shooting the owner in his face through the windshield very fast down a sidewalk listening to “Mama” by Genesis on the stereo… if you hit them fast enough it’s like the pedestrians are just big bags of blood that explode and paint your car in a red mist of goo. By the time Queen’s “One Vision” came on the stereo I had to ditch the Shelby for a tricked out Humvee, but that was cool because then I had the extra traction to go into the park where there are a LOT of pedestrians… it’s very odd to be running over people, hearing their bodies slap up against the bottom of your car and listening to their last words while listening to Smashing Pumpkins “1979”…

    My very best to Aik.

  17. darkentries says:

    You know how to make a boy jealous….
    Seriously, I nearly got an xbox elite just to play gtaIV.

  18. Pingback: Looking Back Glancing Sideways And Resolving To Keep Moving Forward « …salted lithium.

  19. Pingback: Some Things I Learned About My Recovery From My Trip Back To The Big City « …salted lithium.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s